Wednesday, November 15, 2006

Les Reed - First time round

Now that the shock of Iain Dowie getting sacked has passed by, and the acceptance of new Head Coach Les Reed sinks in, I thought it might be interesting to look back on Les' previous three year spell at The Valley.

Les joined Charlton in 1995, as first team coach to manager Alan Curbishley. This was Curbs first year as sole manager, following Steve Gritt's ousting by Richard Murray. The previous year had seen Charlton striuggle, and finish in 15th position.

Reed obviously played his part in a resurgence the following year, as Charlton made the play offs which ultimately ended in failure. The season also saw a few good cup results, with Premiership Sheffield Wednesday and Wimbledon beaten, and Charlton only knocked out in replays by Wolves and Liverpool.

The goals were spread around well, with Bowyer, Leaburn, and Grant getting double figures, and with Robinson, Newton, and Mortimer also chipping in with good returns.

Match highlight were the 5-1 away win at Ipswich (Leaburn's hat-trick!), and Kim Grant's double in the snowy 2-0 victory at The New Den. Ultimately, too many draws (20) meant no real promotion challenge was offered, and sixth place was a good result.

The next season, 1996/7, Charlton slipped back again, finishing 15th once more. A poor start to the season meant the Lee Bowyer-less Addicks never really got going, and good wins were followed by poor defeats. The highlights included a 4-4 home draw with Norwich, and the emergence of a new hero, Mark Kinsella, plus the return of Anthony Barness. Andy Petterson winning player of the year pretty much summed things up! Leaburn top scored with nine, David Whyte also got nine, Bradley Allen hit six, and Kinsella seven.

The cup saw grand efforts, but ultimate failure in replays against Premiership Newcastle and Liverpool.

1997/8 will always be remembered as the Wembley season. In came Clive Mendonca (the missing link), and all of a sudden it seemed a lot easier to be a Charlton fan. A 4-0 win at Norwich, followed four days later by another four goal show at home versus Bradford both came early in the season. Some setbacks happened in mid-season (including a 4-1 defeat at Bramall Lane) but in March the board decided to "go for it" and Danny Mills and Eddie Youds shored up the defence and along with Sasa Ilic, a phenomenal run of clean sheets started.

Mendonca hit 28 goals in total; Robinson nine; Steve Jones and Mark Bright six each; and Kinsella and Newton both got half a dozen. A great FA Cup win over Nottingham Forest wasn't followed up, and Charlton went out to Wolves in a home replay after extra time. Ipswich beat the Addicks in the league cup second round.

At the end of that season, after the Wembley victory, Reed left for a job back from wence he came - the Football Association.

His years saw Charlton play 4-4-2 almost every week; Richard Rufus was the defensive mainstay; Bowyer and Kinsella the workhorses in midfield, with Newton and Robinson playing wide. Up front, Leaburn was the physical presence, and Nelson, Grant, Whyte, and finally Mendonca made the runs and scored goals.

Reed's three-year tenure as Curbs first team coach was considered a success, and it was a shame that he didn't stay to oversee the coaching of Charlton's first Premiership season. Eight years later, he has now got the chance, first as Dowie's assistant, and now as the main man.

I really think that this could be a fine appointment by the Board. The set up has changed since the days of Lawrence, Nelson, and Firmani, with back-room staff (Mills, Varney, etc) handling many more matters than a Manager would have relinquished ten or twenty years ago. The key thing to me of Dowie's appointment, and the set up with Reed and Robson, was that it was a coaching group; Dowie's job title was not Manager, but Head Coach. If he thought otherwise, he was stupider than he looks. Reed will not have a problem with being Head Coach - that is the job he does, that he is most comfortable with. The media may call a Head Coach the Manager, but that isn't the job anymore (at Charlton at least). Mark Robson is getting a lot of plaudits too, from within the club. He will be important for Reed to rely on when he is doing other duties. A third coach, which the media still wrongly thinks wil be the main man and head the set up, will be the Development Coach, and this could be a former Addick player (Chris Powell, Steve Brown, or similar) or someone who the club feels is good enough without their roots in SE7.

The only area that I feel the club is now lacking is in a figurehead to deal with the media. Will Reed be the one interviewed before and after each game? Will he be the face on the big screen fiften minutes before kick off? I guess so, and he has handled his spells in the limelight (after the Bolton game/this week) well, but will he enjoy a media grilling after a defeat (and we will be defeated a few times during the rest of the season)? Only time will tell...

The defeatists out there who are anticipating the fall of the club seem to be those fans from other clubs who would want Charlton to fail. Clubs like Villa, Manchester City, Ipswich, Southampton, where they have seen failure as a result of change. Most Charlton season ticket holders will welcome this change at the top. Reading on Saturday will be tough, but I feel we have a better chance with Reed in charge than Dowie. The two thousand Charlton fans who are going could be seeing the start of something new, fresh, better, brighter, and happier.

It may not always be pretty, but I now feel confident that we can survive this Premiership season - not by much, but that will be enough.

When Curbs left we all knew it was going to be the start of a new era. Dowie was a mere blip on the screen, before being washed away by the wipers. The real new era should start with Les Reed in charge.

Up the Addicks!

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